A massive 110 entries have been received for the CCI3* class at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, with a further 15 combinations on the waiting list to get a start.
Blenheim’s 25th anniversary event, takes place from September 17 to 20, and entries in the main class include former winners William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnell and Francis Whittington.
Fox-Pitt, who has taken this title three times so far (in 2000, 2010 and 2012) is bringing the experienced Cool Mountain – winner of individual silver and team gold medals at the 2010 World Equestrian Games – and the younger but highly talented Luxury FH.
Pippa Funnell, whose four successes came in 1993, 1995, 2003 and 2004, rides Mirage D’Elle and the home-bred Billy The Biz.
Both are representing Britain at the European Championships at Blair Castle this weekend before coming to the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials – as is last year’s CCI3* winner Francis Whittington.
It’s not just Britain’s best at Blenheim – stars from around the world are competing at the Oxfordshire event. A strong US contingent includes Lauren Kieffer and Clark Montgomery, both hopeful of a place in their country’s squad for the Rio Olympics next year.
Australia’s Andrew Hoy, a triple Olympic gold medalist, has entered Cheeky Calimbo, while his team-mate from the London Olympics, Christopher Burton – recently third and fourth at Burghley – brings Nobilis 18 to Blenheim.
Aoife Clark, winner of the CCI3* at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials in 2013 and the highest-placed Irish rider at both the London Olympics and last year’s World Equestrian Games, has entered the exciting young horse Fernhill Adventure.
The CIC3* for eight-and-nine-year-old horses is always a strong indicator of future stars, as three out of the six horses to have won this class so far have already gone on to win at the very highest (CCI4*) level.
Particularly exciting entries in this class of 73 horses include Zara Phillips and Watkins, and New Zealander Tim Price with Xavier Faer, a half brother to last year’s winner Faerie Dianamo, who was ridden by Tim’s wife, Jonelle.
There are seven combinations on the wait list for this class – two from Ireland, and five horses ridden by New Zealanders.
Blenheim is Oxfordshire’s largest sporting event, and several local entries are also in the mix.
Locals in the CCI3* class include the 2013 winner, Ireland’s Aoife Clark, who lives near Middle Barton. She is riding Fernhill Adventure, a talented nine year old gelding owned by Richard Last, who lives locally in Great Tew.
Clark’s team-mate Austin O’Connor, based at Attington Stud near Thame, will ride Kilpatrick Knight at Blenheim.
British riders planning to compete include Mike Jackson from Bledington. Jackson is hoping for a third consecutive completion in the CCI3* class aboard Kangasong, owned and bred by his wife Ellie’s family.
Izzy Taylor, who will arrive at Blenheim fresh from representing Britain at the European Championships, lives in Aynho. She brings two horses, Briarlands Birdsong and KBIS Starburst, for the CIC3* for eight and nine year old horses – the most prestigious young horse class in Britain.
Younger Oxfordshire riders tackling the CCI3* for the first time include Chipping Norton’s Imogen Gloag, riding Brendonhill Doublet, and Burford’s Nicholas Lucey, with Proud Courage.
Owen Cooper, from Swalcliffe Park near Banbury, has entered Supa Splashdown in the CCI3*. And Abi Walters, from Culworth near Banbury, will ride Kiltealy Toss Up in the CIC3*.